Race Report: The Pumpkin Stampede

This was a nice 5K race in my home city at Lippold Park, where my children have all played their soccer games growing up. The limestone course is pretty flat, winding through wooded areas, prairie fields, soccer/baseball fields, and corn. The temperature was in the mid 50s with a light breeze and rain. I think technically this would be considered a 'trail run'. I have never run in this park before, so any time I get to run in new locales is a plus for me.

I was feeling a cold coming on the night before the race so I ate some Chicken-n-Rice soup, drank a lot of water and hot Peppermint Tea with honey, took two decongestants and went to bed, in the hope I would feel like running in the morning.

Well, Sunday arrived and I felt a bit better but the head/nose was still congested. The rest of the body felt fine and no fever, so I figured "What the heck!" and got myself ready. Thankfully, the park is only 15 minutes from my house. Unfortunately, it was raining and would likely still be raining when the race started. What is it with me and rainy races lately?

So I ate my usual race breakfast -- milk, peanut butter toast, and a banana -- took two more decongestants, and did some foam rolling and stretching. Then I got my lucky Zoot Compression pants on, running shorts, two tech shirts, a jacket from my Run Club, and the rest of my gear and headed to the park to pick up my race packet. It was still dark outside at 6:45am and still raining. :(

I decided to run this race without my iPod or iPhone. I have to get used to running without music (I have been doing this more often since September). I know that Disney discourages running with music so I am going to try to get used to that. I find that running without puts me more in touch with my body and my breathing, and forces me to manage my pace (still working on that part).

Right before the race start, I ran into a couple from my church, a very nice surprise! They found me, actually. Bob and Claire are really cool, and Claire has recently started running (partially because of hearing my journey to becoming more active and healthy). Bob has been a runner for a while. So we talked for a bit until the race began. They decided to run together, at a slower pace than my own.

I started out fast and then slowed down to a 10:00 pace. I was running carefully because of the rain and leaves on the path and the slight dips here and there. Leaves can be worse than ice I think. As I ran, I found that my head cleared and I was able to breathe a lot better. So I just kept moving forward, running at a speed that 'felt good'. I did not really check my pacing on the watch. Instead, I just focused on the rhythm between my breathing and my cadence to find a good match.

At about 1.5 miles, I was feeling strong and the rain had stopped. I knew I was running faster than I did at the Chicago AIDS 5K but it did not feel labored (later I saw from the watch I was running most of the race between 157-169 bpm, Zone 2-3). I was running alongside a woman and we ended up running together for the rest of the race (until the last 1/4 mile when she dropped back or I sped up, whichever). I am not sure if I was using her as a pacer or if she was using me as one. But it felt good to run at that pace so I did.

I got water at the 2.5 mile mark (I decided not to bring anything with me on the run this time) and started thinking about slowing down a bit. But then I figured it was only another half mile so why not just 'stay the course' and see if I could finish strong.

I saw the finish line and sped up a bit -- eager to be done! I crossed the finish line and the volunteers were really bubbly and smiling. One came up to tear off the bottom part of my bib and hand me some water. I almost lost my balance as I was still slowing down when she came up to me, but I caught myself.

I went to take my cooling off walk and after a while remembered I hadn't stopped my watch! The watch read 32:10. Now I had no idea what my finish time was because I forgot to check the race clock. I was pretty bummed! So I waited for Bob and Claire to finish and joined them to get some more water, a sandwich, and banana.

After saying our farewells, and telling them how much I appreciated having friends at the race, I needed to head home to shower, change clothes, and get to church in time to be a Greeter, worship, and lead my high school Christian Ed class. I felt good, the legs were fine, and I was generally pleased with the run (just bummed that I had no idea what my finish time was).

The rest of the day was uneventful. After church, I went home to watch the Chicago Marathon on the DVR and get some retreat planning done. Later, the family went out to dinner. Before bed, I did some stretching and foam rolling even though the legs felt fine. All in all, a wonderful day! Except that the race web site still hadn't published the results!

Today, I got up at 5AM to do my TEAM Fitness workout. Since I skipped it last Wednesday, I knew that Mike (the Trainer) would make sure I worked my butt off today. I was not disappointed! It was a full hour workout: from planks, crunches, supermans, lunges, and jumping jacks with a weight bar, to bicep curls, lat pulldowns, hamstring raises, various types of squats, punches, tricep extensions, and step ups! Whew! Good thing I got a decent night's sleep!

After the workout, I checked the race web site and the results were finally published! I came in 5th in my age group and 34th overall (out of 97 runners). My official chip time was 30:44! Whoa! I had no idea! I averaged a 9:55 pace which is the fastest I think I have ever run an actual race. I know that there are tons of people who run faster than I do. But for me, this time represented a significant speed increase since Oct 1st, when I finished a 5K in 33:08. WooHoo! And my legs weren't bothering me either! So yeah, I am pretty excited about the performance.

Meghan was pleased but also reminded me that I really need to be training in Zone 2 to be ready for the Half Marathon. That is between 151-162 bpm for me (everyone's Zones are unique to them). So as much as I like the speed work and seeing my run speed increase, it is just as important to work on my endurance and get my heart really used to the Long Runs.

Next Saturday, I have an 8-mile LSR scheduled and I am going to make sure I run it in Zone 2 the entire time. Then that Sunday, I have another 5K race in downtown Chicago. I am NOT going to run hard during that race. I'll just run it for the fun of it and not worry about my time since technically, Sunday is my Rest Day. So this Friday will be my Rest Day and possibly the following Monday if I need to.

The next big race for me is the Hot Chocolate 15K on November 5th. The cool thing about that race is I get to run it with my friend and running partner Mike! My coach Meghan is also competing in the 15K, as well as a co-worker from my office. I also have several other friends who are running the 5K race offered that morning. So the post-race festivities will be awesome because so many friends will be there!

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